One of the most influential figures in the history of photography is the German American photographer Alfred Stieglitz. He is renowned for his groundbreaking work and effort to establish photography as a legitimate art form. Not only did he make significant advancements in photography from both scientific and artistic perspectives, but he also played a key role in spreading modern art throughout the United States.
“ I could not understand why the artists should envy me for my work, yet, in the same breath, decry it because it was machine-made—their ‘art’ painting, because hand-made being considered necessarily superior. There I started my fight.”
Alfred was born in the USA in 1864 but went to Berlin to complete his studies in mechanical engineering. Upon finishing, he embarked on his photographic journey across Europe before returning to the USA to play his historic role in the field of photography.
During that time, most photographers viewed photography solely as a commercial tool. However, Alfred’s approach was distinct from theirs. “I could not understand why the artists should envy me for my work, yet, in the same breath, decry it because it was machine-made—their ‘art’ painting, because hand-made being considered necessarily superior. There I started my fight,” he later expressed.
Through his lens, Stieglitz captured the essence of early 20th-century America, documenting the rapid urbanization and the evolving social landscape with a keen eye for detail. He aimed to showcase photography’s expressive potential, its ability to convey emotions, and its power to narrate stories.
At the same time, his effort was focused on gaining recognition for photography as a fine art. He spearheaded a movement alongside other photographers who sought to push the boundaries of the medium. From 1903 to 1917, Stieglitz published one of the most significant journals in the history of photography, “Camera Work.” He and many others used this platform to exhibit the finest examples of artistic photography. The publication also featured critical essays that promoted photography as a legitimate art form, fostering dialogue within the artistic community.
Stieglitz’s advocacy for the recognition of photography as a fine art was a crucial aspect of his brilliant impact on the field. Beyond his artistic contributions, Stieglitz played a vital role as a mentor and curator, nurturing the careers of numerous photographers, including Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, and Georgia O’Keeffe, who later became his wife. His pioneering spirit and unwavering dedication to photography helped shape the trajectory of the medium, inspiring generations of photographers to come.